Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Starring Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Powers Boothe, Eva Green, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson
Review by Jordan
As peers and sometimes collaborators, the careers of energetic Texan Robert Rodriguez and pop-culture icon Quentin Tarantino have long been compared, with most critics perhaps soundly siding with the latter.
True, Tarantino’s recent output from a film perspective is finer (Inglourious Basterds more so than the slightly misguided Django Unchained), and he has painted a number of genres with his pulpy, instantly recognizable style, but its the child-like exuberance and thrill that Rodriguez injects into each of his projects that still, and always has rendered him the victor in my eyes.
The action trilogy of El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico stands tall as his calling-card (the guns-in-guitar-case gimmick being especially cool to a teenage movie nut), From Dusk ’till Dawn is a cult classic par excellence, Machete a love-letter to his devoted fans and Sin City his masterpiece of maturity; a superbly crafted adult thriller that revolutionized green screen technology… so, where does that leave its belated sequel? and how does it’s quality reflect on the legacy of the now-prolific writer, director, editor and scorer?
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is, to put it in a rather disappointing fashion, neither a hindrance to, nor a improvement over it’s predecessor. Co-directed by graphic novelist Frank Miller (who tellingly proved he wasn’t suited to solo work with The Spirit), there are moments of cool mastery, lead by the awesomely intimidating Marv (an almost unrecognizable Mickey Rourke) and pure incarnation of evil in the shape of the cliched corrupt politician Senator Roark (the under-appreciated Powers Boothe, who gets to say “power” a heck of a lot), but arriving 9 years after the original and not offering anything new in terms of narrative ambition means that despite the technical prowess still being undeniably present, this is a trip to Basin City that doesn’t necessarily need be taken.
Then there’s Eva Green, who despite what the advertisers push certainly steals more screen time than the likes of the earnest Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba or, by a long margin, Rosario Dawson. Sure, she is the titular “Dame to Kill For,” but the once-alternative screen siren made famous by the great Casino Royal has since forged a truly trashy filmography and extends that firmly B-grade design to her performance here, providing a shocking performance amongst notable actors.
Some will say the Sin City brand is trash anyway. It’s not. It’s a Robert Rodriguez brand, and if you think anything associated with the vibrant film-maker who had the guts to make Grindhouse, Shorts and Machete in succession, and who has managed to direct, so far, 3 successful series (including the hugely popular Spy Kids movies) is trash, then you’re clearly on Tarantino’s side…
Dazzlingly violent, hard-boiled and blackly funny, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For does a lot right, but ultimately it had big, Marv sized shoes to fill, and there is enough wrong to ensure its not essential viewing. Sin City (2005) is a neo-noir that took the industry by surprise and perfectly translated its source material to the screen, and even if its not entirely worthy, at least it’s sequel reminded us of that fact, and if it encourages those who failed to enter this black, white and red world almost a decade ago to now venture in, then in my opinion that’s still a job well done.